By Raising Children Network
Print Email

Playing together encourages and enhances your child’s development. After a day at school, playtime is also just for unwinding and having fun.

Young girl wearing a hand-made cardboard crown
  • Make a Book

    Visit our Make a Book section to build a customised ‘book’ with this and other essentials on school-age children.

    Go to Make a Book

Play is important for your school-age child’s learning and development. As he gets older, he’ll get more creative and experiment more with toys, games and ideas.

And by the time he’s seven or eight, your child will have formed special friendships with one or two other children, usually of the same sex. Playing games with others helps children learn about sharing. Learning to play fair is also important at this age, and there’s often a lot of talk between children about fairness, rules, and right and wrong.

Group games

Group games help your child learn about self-control and getting on with others. She’ll learn that if you just do what you like, when you like, you’re not likely to win or be liked by others.

Group games also give kids a way to safely unload angry feelings. For example, your child can kick a ball (instead of another person) and use all that energy by playing hard.

Sometimes rough-and-tumble play and play fighting will be a part of children’s group games. Rough play is important for helping them understand their own strength, and work out their social relationships.

Sport is another way children can learn about being part of a group effort. And by teaching your child how to be a good sport from a young age, you can help him get the most out of being part of the game.

Books for school-age children

Your child’s literacy is developing. By 7-9 years, most children can read to themselves. Your child might enjoy some short, illustrated books she can read without your help. You could also try introducing comics, kids’ magazines and novelty books.

With new hobbies and interests, your child might start to devour books and magazines on his special subject, whether it’s motorbikes, horses or bugs. But if your child is a reluctant reader, look for books on topics that interest him. For example, if he loves jokes, buy him a suitable joke book to read aloud to you.

Your school-age child might like books that help her explore her feelings and life experiences (such as loneliness, friendship and growth). She might also like to stretch her imagination with magical stories and illustrations.

Other ways to encourage reading include visiting the library and bookshops. It might even be time for your child to get his own library card! Your child could listen to recorded stories in the car or at home. And you could give him books and recorded stories as gifts.

Reading and storytelling together is still great for bonding and building your relationship with your school-age child.

School-age games

Here are some ideas for after-school fun.

Art and craft

  • Threading beads and string
  • Making swirly water patterns with food colouring and an eye-dropper
  • Painting and making prints with sponges, toothbrushes and potatoes
Science and maths
  • Using a calculator to explore number patterns and develop numeracy
  • Doing some science experiments (under your supervision, of course!)

Music and drama

  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Playing teacher and student with you – this can help children deal with feelings about school and also give you clues about what your child thinks about school 

Physical play

  • Dancing to a favourite CD
  • Camping in the backyard
  • Playing organised sports with a local team
  • Getting into some outdoor play by going to the local playground with a friend

Puzzles and games

  • Gardening – planting and tending a vegie patch (carrots are a good choice)
  • Cooking – helping to prepare dinner or make biscuits
  • Collecting cards or stamps
Homemade games and toys are still a great way to keep children entertained at this age – and they needn’t cost a cent. You might like to read more ideas on how to play with paying.

Media and screen time

Current research shows that school-age children watch over 24 hours of TV every week. That’s over 3½ hours a day. The National Physical Activity Guidelines (2004) recommend children aged 5-18 years have no more than two hours of screen time a day.

Children see TV differently from grown-ups. When you understand the differences, it can help you make the most of TV time for your children. One way to keep an eye on your child’s viewing is to have your TV or TVs in family areas, rather than bedrooms.

There’s no doubt that there are benefits of media for children. But research also shows that children who watch a lot of entertainment TV (such as cartoons) spend less time than other children on activities that help them grow and develop, such as playing, exercising and reading.

If you get actively involved in your child’s media use, it can help you guide the way your child interacts with TV, computer games, the internet and so on. For example, carefully choose what your child watches or plays, and be on hand to explain what’s happening (particularly the difference between fantasy and reality). You can also help your child make sense of media messages like those you come across in advertisements. The ability to understand how media works and question what it’s saying is an important life skill.

If your child uses the internet at home, you might be interested in our tips on internet safety.
  • Add to favourites
  • Create pdf
  • Print
  • Email
  • Rated 4 Stars (122) ratings Rate this item
  • Feedback Tell us what you think of this item
  • Your story Share your parenting tips
  • Newsletter snippet: School-age play and learning: in a nutshell

    By Raising Children Network

    Playing games together helps school-age children learn about fair play, self-control, right and wrong, and getting on with others. It encourages and enhances your child’s development.

    After a day at school, though, playtime is really just about having fun. Although TV can help your child rest and relax, current recommendations are no more than two hours of screen time a day for children aged 5-18 years. If you do let your child watch TV, play computer games or go online, you can guide his understanding of media messages by being involved in his media use.

    Ideas for after-school fun

    • Threading beads
    • Painting or making prints
    • Dancing to music
    • Jigsaw puzzles
    • Card games
    • Board games
    • Learning a musical instrument
    • Reading illustrated books
    • Reading magazines on a favourite subject
    • Visiting the library
    • Gardening
    • Stamp collecting
    • Helping with dinner
    • Camping in the backyard
    • Playing an organised sport with a local team
    • Visiting the local playground

    This article is an extract only. For more information, visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website

  • Last Updated 04-01-2012
  • Last Reviewed 01-12-2011